LABOR: Little David, the Giant

Every day at noon, the shmooze begins. All over Manhattan's grimy Garment Center, in its warrens of disheveled one-room "shops" crammed into loft buildings and slatternly tenements, the sharp whir of sewing machines stops. Workers and bosses pour onto the sidewalk and gather in clots at the curb under the glowering sun. Above the bray of automobile horns, hunched, rumpled men shout in Yiddish, Italian and English, leaning against the clogged trucks, stepping out of the way of rattling racks of dresses without missing a verb or a gesture.

Pressers and cutters,...

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